Teaching & Living the Faith: May 2013 Archives

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Post Pentecost some of our study and prayer ought to work on what it means to live by the Holy Spirit and how does the Church relate to the Spirit. We need to be serious about the Holy Spirit and not leave such questions to the dust bin or the happy-clappy Christians who claim to be slain in the Spirit alone. Sometimes I get the sense that we Catholics go to extremes when it comes to Holy Spirit: either we pay no attention to the Spirit or we ascribe to much to the Spirit. We even forget that the Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity: the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit to be God.

There is nothing to fear in coming to understand the what and who the Holy Spirit is for the Catholic.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (797) teaches:

What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members. The Holy Spirit makes the Church the temple of the living God:

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the "Gift of God" has been entrusted. In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent go God. For where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit; where God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace. (Saint Irenaeus)

The Most Holy Trinity

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In case you heard a dreadful homily on the Holy Trinity today, you may rely on Saint Augustine. To be fair, this dogma is difficult to comprehend but we do have to give a reasonable explanation to what we believe. The Catholic faith is reasonable on all levels.

In the sacred Liturgy, our first theology, we prayed and lived in the last weeks the mysteries some of the crucial pieces of Christian life and salvation: the Paschal Mystery -- the life, death, Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost-- and today, the Most Holy Trinity, and soon Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

The teaching of the Church is that the Father created us, we are redeemed by Jesus (the Son) and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The communio of the Persons of the Trinity demonstrates how we are to live and gives voice to what we aspire: life with God. The most important thing to understand about the Trinity is that God is not a solitary unit, but a community of persons: a community of Love. If God were a single person the love spoken of would be ego-centric. But what is revealed to us is the God is a community of three persons whose other name is Love (or, Mercy) and that Love is shared among themselves and with us. The communio of the Trinity is expressed and lived dynamically with others, that is, in relationship with others.

"There is, accordingly, a good which is alone simple, and therefore alone unchangeable, and this is God. By this Good have all others been created, but not simple, and therefore not unchangeable. "Created," I say,-that is, made, not begotten. For that which is begotten of the simple Good is simple as itself, and the same as itself. These two we call the Father and the Son; and both together with the Holy Spirit are one God; and to this Spirit the epithet Holy is in Scripture, as it were, appropriated. And He is another than the Father and the Son, for He is neither the Father nor the Son. I say "another," not "another thing," because He is equally with them the simple Good, unchangeable and co-eternal. And this Trinity is one God; and none the less simple because a Trinity. For we do not say that the nature of the good is simple, because the Father alone possesses it, or the Son alone, or the Holy Ghost alone; nor do we say, with the Sabellian heretics, that it is only nominally a Trinity, and has no real distinction of persons; but we say it is simple, because it is what it has, with the exception of the relation of the persons to one another. For, in regard to this relation, it is true that the Father has a Son, and yet is not Himself the Son; and the Son has a Father, and is not Himself the Father. But, as regards Himself, irrespective of relation to the other, each is what He has; thus, He is in Himself living, for He has life, and is Himself the Life which He has."

Saint Augustine, City of God, 11.10

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God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty. 

For many preachers don't handle the "idea feast" of the Most Holy Trinity. Their method is typically confused. Admittedly, the theology of the Trinity is not well represented in sacred Scripture in a direct way. You have to be able to read and interpret the indications given by Revelation. You can also read what the theologians have said, but you also may go to the poets and musicians (see the previous post today) but we have other spirited people like the saints. A reflection from Saint Hildegard of Bingen, last Doctor of the Church may shed some light on how we relate to this sublime of Mysteries. I happen to think that the saints and many artists are more successful in teaching some complexities of our faith, for example, a triune God but one.

 "Before time, all creatures were in the Father. He organized them in himself and afterwards the Son created them in fact. How is that to be understood? It is similar to the situation among human beings when one carries the knowledge of a great work in herself and then later through her word brings it to the light of day, so that it comes into the world with great acclaim. The Father puts things in order; the Son causes them to be...The Holy Spirit streams through and ties together 'eternity' and 'equality' so that they are one. This is like when someone ties a bundle together - for there would be no bundle if it weren't tied together; everything would fall apart. Or it is like when a smith welds two pieces of metal together in a fire as one...The Holy Spirit is the firmness and the aliveness. Without the Holy Spirit eternity would not be eternity. Without the Holy Spirit equality would not be equality. The Holy Spirit is in both, and one with both of them in the Godhead. The one God."

St John Chrysostom, St Patrick's cathedral, Ne...

St John Chrysostom, St Patrick's Cathedral, NYC

Let me be presumptuous for a minute: I think few people spend much time considering a life of vice, sin, evil in their own lives. Personal darkness, "dead" salt as Pope Francis mentioned today in homily, is not high on people's list of things. Many are quick --and I can be accused of this, too-- point out the sin in another ignoring the fat elephant of in the living room in need of a wash or a diet. Do you think this is reasonable to say? My friend Henry told me once that people don't like going to confession because they like their sins. True enough. I agree. But I also like reconciliation. Something new, something happens to my soul after a good confession of sins that no other experience is capable of imparting.

The point of conversion is to develop the better self, not to remain entrenched in a bitter way of seeing things. Lent was supposed to help me seeing things differently; now, perhaps Ordinary Time will lead me in the right direction.

I am across this paragraph from the Prologue from Ochrid that I found interesting and thought I would share. Chrysostom's insight about vice and good works is correct from my own experience and from what I observe in others. Chrysostom is a heavy hitter.

We see that vice is something shameful and sinful in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: "Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works." This is why the Savior said: "they come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (St. Matthew 7:15). Call a liar, a liar; a thief, a thief; a murderer, a murderer; an adulterer, an adulterer; a slanderer, a slanderer and you will infuriate them. However, call a man whatever you want: honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious and you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, according to Chrysostom, I quote: "good works are something natural in man while vice is something unnatural and false." If a man is even caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garments of good works. Indeed, vice does not posses its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vices!

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There is an icon of an angel in the daily Mass chapel at Our Lady of Pompeii Church (East Haven, CT) but it is so high that no one can really see the details of the icon, even trying to make out the Greek is difficult for young eyes. The pastor, Father John, promised a gift to the one who identifies the icon at Mass this morning which opened a door for inquiry. Piqued with wonder several, including yours truly, set out to determine the angel's identity. At first glance I thought it was the Archangel Raphael. But closer examination showed me that it was really Gabriel. In the meantime, I asked one of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart, a curious creature and holy woman, how many archangels are there.

An "angel" denotes a function, not a nature; they are messengers. The archangels are leaders of the other angels, hence they are called the princes of the angels. As you know Western Christians venerate three archangels: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. But, few know that there is a fourth named archangel (plus three other un-named archangels), one who is little known and not liturgically commemorated in the Latin Liturgy, but the venerated by Christians of Eritrea (related to the Coptic Church), the Anglican Communion, and Judaism. His name, Uriel, meaning "God is my light."

Archangel Uriel's feast day is July 11.

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Archangel Uriel, according to pious legend (and I am not being dismissive by using these words because legend isn't used as fiction), indicates that Uriel is known as the angel of wisdom as he illumines the heart and mind to know God's truth. He is "The Light or Fire of God." You might say he's the archangel of discernment. Perhaps this is the angel who assisted Saint Ignatius of Loyola in writing the principles of Discernment in his Spiritual Exercises! As this Orthodox prayer says, 

Oh holy Saint Uriel, come to our aid with your legion of angels! Intercede for us that our hearts may burn with the fire of God. Obtain for us the grace to use the sword of
truth to fight against all that is not in conformity to the most adorable will of God in our lives.

The apocryphal texts of the biblical tradition in question are the little known Book of Enoch and Esdras. What we learn is that Uriel is one of seven archangels who preside over the world; that Uriel reveals that rebellious and fallen angels will be judged by God and that Uriel warns the prophet Noah about the flood.

Moreover, in 2 Esdras, God sends Uriel to answer a series of questions that the prophet Ezra about recognizing the signs of good and evil at work in the world.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Teaching & Living the Faith category from May 2013.

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